By: Joaquin Flores
Notes on the Normandy 4 Meeting in Minsk: Peace Will Come only through a Euro-Euroasian Co-prosperity from Lisbon to Vladivostok
There is a considerable degree of anxiety surrounding this ‘Last Chance’ meeting held in Minsk. The first question of course is, a ‘Last Chance’ for who?
It is a last chance for Europe, not for Russia.
And what is the logic behind this meeting?
The US was excluded, and this is significant. The answer to that question orbits around several other related questions that we will examine in some detail.
First we ask, in what capacity and in what manner do the Normandy 4 behave?
Most nebulous is Poroshenko. Looking at Poroshenko’s body language one could discern that he was under extreme duress and was experiencing feelings of powerlessness, shame, humility, and insecurity.
Some have said that Europe sees Poroshenko as their man, and alternately that Yatsenuk is the US’s man. From this understanding, the Minsk talks today would seem to even include the US, even as a silent partner.
The US is not a ‘silent partner’ to this. That is after all, the very point. The US was excluded. This was a private meeting in Minsk: Merkel, Hollande, and Poroshenko were screened through security (were debugged) and real talks were held.
This is one of the few that world leaders can actually communicate with the most assurances that their talks are not compromised through bugging. This means that ‘off script’ talks can be had, and the langue de bois can be disposed of.
The evidence and the logic indicate that while the EU (and Russia) may inherit Poroshenko, it still points to his placement by Nuland and the US establishment after the real needs and desires of the EU in this process were abandoned at an early stage. To a certain extent his coming was a compromise meant to lure the EU back into support for the US plan. But the strongest pressure points acting upon Poroshenko are the US, not the EU. Not at least while the EU continues, though with some resistance, to follow the US lead.
Up until now, negotiations have been on the balance good for Russia. After September 12th, couched as a concession to the Russians resulting from the simulated cease-fire of September 5th, the EU officially let go of its bid to offer Ukraine an EU association agreement. But that agreement was made during a high point for the Russian interest in the Donbass, the drama around the MH-17 incident in mid-summer was ultimately a failure in terms of forcing a concession from Russia.
The sanctions have had little effect. November’s currency drama surrounded the drop in oil prices, not the sanctions.
What of Merkel and Hollande? Body language of these two was clear – they were pleading. Their appearance on the couch had them very close together, occupying little space, like two school children waiting to be disciplined.
For the EU, and due to its being penetrated at various levels by the Atlanticist faction, this entire problem in Ukraine has been one which they have grudgingly engaged in. It has caused serious ruptures within European power circles. At this point, they very much need Putin to actually figure something out for them.
They did not come to deliver ultimatums, but to look for creative solutions that could resolve their problem. In one solution they see for themselves, they can continue to sit in two chairs – good relations with the Russian sphere and good relations with the US.
Putin’s body language was clearly that of a relaxed person who was enjoying most of the public part of the process, knowing that the world and the media would properly see this meeting in the context of a stronger Russian position. No one who has been following this reasonably thinks that the ‘Last Chance’ is Russia’s. Time is on Russia’s side, even still.
Russia has a problem too, but day by day Europe’s problems grow larger in proportion. Russia’s present problem is that it cannot capitalize upon its battle field victories in a standard way. It of course creates facts on the ground which are many bargaining chips at the table. But there is only so far beyond the borders of Novorossiya that it could go while still being able to maintain the politically tenable ‘defensive’ position. Incidentally this describes some of the thinking behind the Sept. 5 lines and why Russia has decided to make victories in the middle of Novorossiya and not at or beyond its borders.
But from Egypt to Turkey to Greece and beyond, Russia capitalizes around the world on its victories upon the battlefield against the US backed government in Kiev.
Still, its victories cannot be total at this time. This is for political reasons, not military problems. Indeed, one role of Russian volunteer advisers in Novorossiya is to make sure not only that the regular local militia does not suffer real defeat, but also does not seize upon its advantage too much after victories. These advisers are ‘holding back’ the DPR forces from pushing too far.
But these are the victories, measured victories, and politically acceptable victories, which have brought Hollande and Merkel to Minsk – at least in part.
Many are saying that this meeting connects somehow to an ending of the violence. It does, but only generally so. The EU cannot compel Poroshenko to act, Poroshenko’s actions are controlled by three main powers, but primarily it is the US.
The first is the US who acts directly upon him and also through pressure from the Pravy Sektor. They threaten to remove him and install the PS or create a more complex political terrain with more infighting, towards a failed state.
The next is Russia who has its eyes and ears in every compartment where Poroshenko lives and works. They have maintained him in power through countless obvious mechanisms, from access to energy (gas, coal), military results which he could spin positively (or hide), and against the Pravy Sektor.
Finally here is Europe, who has the least control over Poroshenko at present, but whose shift in position would be critical in supporting him outside of US policy should Ukraine take a federalized path and grant serious autonomy to Novorossiya.
What is the European stake in this and on what basis do they enter into negotiations if they do not have pull on the Junta?
In what sense is Poroshenko their man if they cannot negotiate on his behalf?
Certainly also Poroshenko cannot hold an agreement he makes, because the US – who was excluded and decided not a silent partner – will either threaten him directly, or increase support for the Right Sector militias.
It is likely that this meeting is on subjects beyond that which has been publicly stated.
This could be about a change of European policy on Russian solutions in Ukraine, and while it is compelled by real battle-field losses, it is more over on Ukraine’s economic collapse on the one hand, and the threat of the war spilling over into Poland on the other.
It is this part that affects Europe, as well as the toll of the sanctions and also the IMF loan whose value was based upon a monetization of assets in areas held also by the ”rebels”. We would then enter into questions revolving around Europe’s ‘price’ for real neutrality, even a pro-Russian position around Ukraine. How much has the EU lost on Ukraine, and what would it need to get back?
But it is most certainly not about Sept. 5. This meeting was most certainly not limited to talks about federalization, cease-fires, artillery, and the like. We were told that this was what the meeting was about, and this is our first indication that it was not about this.
Our second indication comes from the actual logic we can discern from the fact that Poroshenko acts under US control unless we are seeing a major shift in the European position.
After all, Europe is not engaged in the ground on this. The EU has little pull on Poroshenko to make good on any commitment which comes out of this.
What are other possible subjects of the meeting?
Recently, Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference that Russia wishes to make a common Eurasian Union with the European Union spanning from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
These may be the kinds of preliminary talks – which can rarely happen unless with a great cover – to sketch out the practical things relating to such a thing. Not in grand scale here, but in relating first to resolution on Ukraine.
Poroshenko was likely being finally disabused of certain notions. He is being made aware of the EU’s ability to push publicly on German intelligence findings, 50,000 dead, not 5,000. This would take the form of an ‘intervention’ for Poroshenko and showing him the numbers of tests that have been run. These are numbers and tests relating to the US’s desire to keep the war going even if Poroshenko does not want it, which means the undoing of Poroshenko.
There is a plan by the US to push Poroshenko out of the way, and he may need to be made finally aware of it, or given certain guarantees surrounding his stability, or conversely, a safe exit. All of these are possibilities, and such a meeting as yesterday and this morning’s in Minsk provide excellent opportunities in a security enhanced environment to speak some ugly but necessary truths.
Poroshenko is desperate. Last November I wrote about the Galician nationalism which was at the core of the Pravy Sektor, and how a Galician problem would arise and be the undoing of the false Ukraine construct.
Poroshenko has just affirmed that Ukraine is essentially a Galician state. This is an admission of tremendous scale. This changes so very much, but it represents a position of fragility even more so.
Putin may well have said certain things to Poroshenko which establish that Poroshenko’s entire existence and networks are under watch.
Other recent facts which contextualize the Normandy 4 talks
The UAF is able to make strikes upon PS positions, the Junta has turned on itself, indeed the ‘revolution is devouring its children’.
The UAF has a much harder time making strikes upon DPR positions.
We must ask whose intelligence being provided to the UAF would make it easier to hit the PS militia positions, but not be useful in finding the DPR. The US does not want to see the UAF finish off the PS militias, rather they need the PS for a number of plans. The US cannot provide real-time access to its satellites because of the holes in Ukraine’s security, penetrated by the FSB.
PS have reported numerous times that the UAF has shelled their positions. There are other reports of fire-fights.
At the same time as this meeting in Minsk, Yatsenyuk was pleading with the IMF for more of what it sells.
These are the relevant factors which produce the strong sense that these Normandy 4 meetings involve some very serious things and some complex levels that are beyond the scope of what is reported. Russia conducts itself in these meetings from a position of strength.
Whatever is agreed to, we should expect reporting from the west of a Russian compromise. Russia will mirror this falsehood, and a both ‘sides’ report a Russian compromise, it will be interpreted as an unmitigated truth.
The real win for Russia moving forward will not be evident to us this week, but rather at a later time and will relate to Ukraine and Europe, but also perhaps to places seemingly far and unrelated like Cuba, Venzuela, Egypt, or India, and so forth. That has been the pattern since the outbreak of hostilities and absent some tectonic shift in EU policy on Ukraine, we should at least expect a long term win for Russia, even if it is initially under-reported or obfuscated as some detail.